Sri Lanka’s rapidly evolving hospitality industry has added Anantara Kalutara Resort to its list of offerings. The resort’s strong character and identity is underpinned by its location.
Our concept of serendipity, happy chance occurances, apparently stems from the ancient Persian name for Sri Lanka, Serendip.
For its size, Sri Lanka packs a lot of surprises. An intricate history where old Ceylon’s fortresses, temples and tea plantations stud the landscape, the country is a treasure trove of nature and culture with modern twists on local traditions now a feature of the tourism route.
Taking advantage of this is the newly opened 141-key Anantara Kalutara resort by Anantara Hotels, Resorts & Spas, part of Minor Hotel Group.
Located along the island’s southwest coast, minutes from the historic town of Kalutara and an hour south of the capital Colombo, the unique setting between the Indian Ocean and Kalu River boasts coastal, river and lagoon frontage.
The resort is located to make the most of nature and guests are encouraged to experience trips to vast ancient caves, lush virgin rainforest, the world’s tallest sitting Buddha statue, the world’s only hollow Buddhist shrine, tea plantations, the UNESCO World Heritage site of Galle, as well as to get up close with wildlife on a national park safari and dolphin and whale watching boat trips.
Originally designed by Sri Lanka’s most notable architect, the late Geoffrey Bawa, Anantara Kalutara is “inspired by his vision of simplistic elegance and great craftsmanship, blending effortlessly with the island’s tropical beauty and rich culture.”
Giles Selves area GM Anantara Kalutara Resort, Anantara Peace Haven Tangalle Resort and Avani Kalutara Resort, continues, “The opening of Anantara Kalutara Resort in September 2016 was the culmination of a very special project, one that goes back over 20 years.
“The brief was to capitalise on the ocean and river views. The hotel conforms to Bawa ideals of non air-conditioned spaces that open onto beautiful waterscapes, with only essential spaces enclosed and tucked away out of necessity.
“Strikingly simple, the main building has a Dutch colonial style with an impressive gable roof of terracotta half-round clay tiles. An iconic design feature of the hotel, the high ceiling and free-flowing space allows a breeze to circulate in the vast reception, which overlooks the lagoon of the Kalu Ganga Estuary, creating an expansive sense of freedom on arrival.
“The creative nod to Sri Lankan design, by MICD interior designer Roshan Rajapaksha, is depicted in the striking Batik wall hangings behind the reception area and in the resort’s upper deck lounge area and set the tone for the colours of the space. Polished cement floors and terracotta coloured walls with colonial inspired Sri Lankan furniture complete the picture.”
Deemed to have “a very special atmosphere”, the resort’s “strong character and identity” is underpinned by its location. The island’s tropical beauty is the foundation for the design of the resort “fusing natural luxury with colonial and Sri Lankan artistry.”
What’s on offer
Guest rooms, suites and pool villas promise “stunning views, with private balconies and terraces overlooking lush gardens, the ocean or lagoon,” says Selves.
A range of leisure facilities includes a soon-to-open watersports centre, a river view gym, and two swimming pools – the lagoon-side pool with Jacuzzi and children’s section ideal for families while the ocean view pool is a tranquil escape for others.
Dedicated to Geoffrey Bawa, the library is “a quiet retreat showcasing drawings from his archive and some of his favourite designs in Batik.”
The resort spa is a “double storey sanctuary, surrounded by a lotus pond with six individual and four couples treatment rooms, a full spa menu includes Ayurvedic therapies, holistic Asian traditions and western spa wisdom, with an additional pavilion for yoga and meditation sessions.”
Cuisines on offer in the various restaurants include Thai, Indian, Italian and Chinese, with international all-day dining classics and spicy Sri Lanka specialties
On the inside
“The unique piece of land is owned by Minor Hotels and their partners in Sri Lanka, Serendib Leisure,” Selves explains. “The plan was always to continue the development of Bawa’s original hotel and Minor Hotels’ luxury experiential Anantara brand was an obvious fit.
“The 141 guest rooms and suites across two wings – lagoon and ocean – in addition to pool villas have been designed by DDN Design architect, Dipika Dharmadasa.
“The hues, textures and soft furnishings honour Anantara’s essence of natural, comfortable luxury and cultural authenticity in all of the details.
“In some rooms ornately separating the bathroom and bedroom a sliding panel has been crafted from Sri Lankan teak with the lotus design taken from ancient temple motifs. The bathrooms pay tribute to the island’s lotus blooms in a variety of timber carving artworks.
“In the suites intricate black and white line drawings, hand-drawn by a local artist, depict the lotus seed and the ‘queen of fruit’ the mangosteen. Bed throws are Batik fabrics with a distinctive crackle design.”
Guest reaction has been overwhelmingly positive, Selves says. “Generally outside of Sri Lanka and the world of architecture Geoffrey Bawa isn’t well known but the team take great pride in telling the story behind the hotel and this generates a lot of interest. We also encourage guests to visit Bawa’s country estate a short drive from the resort, and those who go really enjoy the experience and have a much better understanding of our resort.”
Latest addition, the ocean wing adds two room categories to the inventory including three one-bedroom ocean view suites.
“Our new banqueting hall will open in June and will be able to accommodate dinners for 400. The new main meeting space is on the second level overlooking the ocean, with the pre-event space on the lower level looking out onto gardens.
“The new facilities will be second to none on the island and with the proximity to the capital will really help put Kalutara – and Sri Lanka – on the map as a meeting and events destination.”